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What Librarians Do

Librarians help people find information from many sources. Most librarians, such as those in public and academic libraries, maintain library collections and do other work as needed to keep the library running.


Librarians typically do the following:

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. They may manage a staff of library assistants and technicians. In larger libraries, librarians usually focus on a specific area, such as user services, technical services, or administrative services.

Librarians working in user services help patrons find the information they need. They listen to what patrons are looking for and help them research the subject using both electronic and print resources. User services librarians also teach patrons how to use library resources to find information on their own. This may include familiarizing patrons with catalogs of print materials, helping them access and search digital libraries, or educating them on Internet search techniques.

Technical services librarians get, prepare, and classify library materials. They organize materials to make it easy for patrons to find information. These librarians are less likely to work directly with the public.

Librarians in administrative services manage libraries. They hire and supervise staff, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. Some conduct public relations or fundraising for the library.

Librarians who work in different settings sometimes have different job duties. The following are examples of types of librarians:

School librarians, sometimes called school media specialists, work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries and teach students how to use library resources. They also help teachers develop lesson plans and find materials for classroom instruction.

Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are sometimes called information professionals. Law firms, hospitals, businesses, museums, government agencies, and many other groups have their own libraries with special librarians. The main purpose of these libraries and information centers is to serve the information needs of the organization that houses the library. Therefore, special librarians collect and organize materials focused on those subjects. The following are examples of special librarians:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition